Today's run was a challenge. On the plate was my long run of the week: 18 km (11.2 mi). On the pathways was ice, and lots of it. I actually went out in the morning, crossed the street, went down the hill and slipped (thankfully without falling) on the first of many patches. I came back home and waited until the afternoon.
When I went out later, the pathway was better. Not perfect, but there was only random patches of ice and lots of puddles of water. I could see when it was slippery, so it was easy to sidestep it, jump over or walk carefully, depending upon the situation. The section of path by my house is asphalt, and the town clears it. It can still get icy when we get melting and freezing happening (like our current weather pattern), but there was no build up of snow to start with. An afternoon of sun was making for a much clearer path.
I started off going towards the end of town. That section is only about 1 km one way, so I knew it would be a short out and back, but I enjoy that section and it has nice scenery with a view of the mountains. I was running really well, especially on the way back, since it's a gradual downhill. Not enough to stress my knees, but enough to make it feel easy.
I then got to the BIG hill. Before today, I had never run up this hill. In fact, when we first moved to this town, I cursed the hill whenever I had to even walk it. Today, I decided to run on the way up. Now, admittedly, I was going pretty darn slow, but I was running! And when I reached the top, I was relieved I'd only have to do it once today.
I ran a little bit further and reached the point where the pathway changes from asphalt to red shale. The remainder of pathways I was going to run on were mostly red shale underneath. Underneath what was hard packed snow last week, and today was ice. Pure ice. Almost skating rink quality. I went a very short distance along it and realized it wasn't getting better.
I considered turning back at this point and attempting to do my long run another day. Truth is though, there wasn't any better day I could plan to do it, so ending it would probably mean skipping it. There was about 2.5 km (1.6mi) of pathway that was safe enough to run on and that was it.
Not that long ago, I did 63 laps on a track in order to get my long run in. That was mind numbing and thank goodness I had company for it. Today, in order to get my long run, I only had to go up and down my 2.5 km section 7 times (plus a bit extra). *only* My new mantra is "you're tougher then that Deb." And, in this case, I certainly was. It was a beautiful section of pathway I got to run on, along the river and with views of the mountain. I really couldn't complain.
So, I turned around and went back the way I came. And again, and again... One problem about running the same route repeatedly is that you don't have that sense of hitting milestones the way you do when you run a longer route. I guess you can celebrate each time you reach the end of the trail, but that's about it. I had to stop off and use the facilities about midway through, and I will admit that I was happy to be close to home. I didn't even consider calling it quits at that point. Besides, I knew my husband would help kick me out the door if I failed to do it myself.
When I did start thinking about calling it quits was around the 13km (8.1mi) mark. "You can just finish this section, then go home," said the little voice in my head. "Just get to 14 km. That's perfectly respectable on a long run day." My legs were tired. I had been running at a faster pace then I usually do long runs at. It was catching up to me...
My legs were tired, but they were still quite capable of moving. So, I kept moving them. Back to the turn around and down the path again. The easy gradual downhill. I let the slope help me along. Then I saw them.
They must have been a track team or something. There were about 10 young teenagers, along with about 4 adults which could have been coaches and/or parents. One of the boys was probably about 11 and he was leading the pack, running effortlessly, but fast. They were going the opposite direction at this point, so I didn't have to consider just how much faster then me they were going - despite the fact they were on the gradual uphill while I was going down. These kids probably ranged in age from about 10-14, but they were amazing. They all looked like they were loving it. They must have been working hard, but at the same time, it looked so easy.
I carried on, and at that point, I knew I was going to finish. I was close to 15 km by now, so I was in the homestretch. I just had to run up that *&$#ing hill one more time, turn around and come back. I kept going. Just before the hill, I was passed again, by the same kid that was leading the pack before. Apparently, they were using the same safe section of pathway that I was. He was stopped by his friend though. Seemed like he was supposed to wait for his group.
I ran up that hill one more time. I was thrilled with the knowledge that this was the last time I had to climb the hill today. Sure, it's good for me, but I think once a run is as much goodness as I really need most days. After finishing the hill, I carried on, turned around and came back. There was the kids again - doing hill repeats on the hill.
As I ran down, the leader kid ran up the hill. And when I say run, I'm not talking about the slow trundle I had done when I went up it 3 times today. He was running as fast up the hill as I was able to run coming down. Probably faster.
In this moment I was completely inspired. Both for myself and for my children. These are kids that will hopefully never fight the battle with obesity. Who love activity and the outdoors. Who can push their bodies in an amazing way. I hope that one day my children will have fun with similar activities. And maybe, just maybe, my example will help them along the way.
I finished the run. All 18 km, and the last km, I ran faster then any of the ones before.